This post comes after long and very careful thought about the possible repercussions – both positive and negative – that may come both here and on social media as a result of this post.
I have been working with dogs [and other animals] for more than 40 years. Through first-hand and sometimes painful experience, I’ve learned how to listen to a dog’s story, how to learn what they need, and how to meet those needs in a way that encourages positive change and ongoing progress. I don’t use harsh physical force, I don’t yell at, and I don’t use intimidation on any dog I work to help. I believe that rewarding the behavior I want – vocally, through touch, with a clicker, and through food treats – is the most effective way to help a dog learn to trust, as well as how to become calmer and happier. In my experience, when a dog feels secure, understood, and encouraged, they want to repeat those rewarded behaviors.
Simplistically speaking, animals – both domestic and wild – actually require only a few major things to live: food, a safe place to sleep, and for those who live in packs, strong, stable leadership. Many may argue against this and say it’s antiquated thinking that’s been scientifically disproved, but my experiences of the past 40 years consistently prove otherwise to me. In my opinion, I think we as humans sometimes make things far more complicated than they need to be, rather than going back to the basics and starting from there. Yes, it might take longer to achieve the results we’re striving to create for dog we’re trying to help, but when a dog completely recovers from a tragic past, or they learn to enjoy the world around them rather than live in terror of it, or they stop living in survival mode and learn to relax, isn’t that extra time worth investing in?
I don’t have the piece of paper the dog training industry says proves I know what I’m doing. I don’t have letters next to my name, or titles that prove my worth. While I applaud and respect those trainers who go to seminars, read books, watch DVDs about dog training, and follow the guidance of peers they respect and want to emulate, I prefer to learn about the dog from the dog itself. To have the dog tell me their story through their behavior and body language; to have him or her show me what they need, and how they need me to meet those needs. What they can and can’t tolerate and accept, what they can and can’t handle, where their thresholds are, what triggers them, and so much more.
This is who I am, and this is how I work. It’s been this way for 40 years, and I don’t intend to change it. I’ve been blessed with a fantastic success rate, and 99% of my clients are more than satisfied with the results I’ve achieved with their dogs. They trust me, and they know I’m there for them whenever they need me, for the rest of their dog’s life. In my opinion, I think that speaks far louder than a piece of paper that adds a few letters beside my name.
Have a great day and a great rest of the week, and remember to stay calm and lead on.